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To Sign or Not to Sign, That is the Question

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With the major upheavals in the Wild front office, what with Risebrough and Lemaire both gone, the pending free agents on the roster have got to be watching very closely. Who gets an offer, who is simply let go, who maybe gets traded before the contract expires, all of this depends on who is brought in to run the asylum.

Between a new GM and a new coach, personnel decisions need to be made, and soon. The front office will need to put together a plan of what to do with the free agents so they can then plan how to proceed with the draft and then on to July 1st.

Over the next couple of days, we will take a look at the free agent situtation, both here in Minnesota, and down in Houston. We will look at each player individually, offering a view of what the players means to the team, what is gained by a re-signing, or lost from the player leaving, and whether or not an offer should be made and if so, how much and for how long. Finally, we will look at

Make the jump for the first crop of players, the Unrestricted Free Agents in Saint Paul.

(According to Cap Central, the Wild have just over $43 million in salary cap hit taken up next season. The cap is expected to stay right at the $56 million mark for next year, leaving the Wild roughly $13 million to work with.)

Today, we look at the two forward position UFAs on the roster in Marian Gaborik and Stephane Veillieux.

Marian Gaborik

Marian Gaborik

#10 / Right Wing / Minnesota Wild



Feb 14, 1982

2008 - Marian Gaborik 17 13 10 23 3 2 2 1 2 0 68 19.1

First on the list, and on the front burner of every team in the league not name the Red Wings, is Marian Gaborik. He and his buddy Marian Hossa will be the crown jewels in the free agent mess this July. Do they sign for a discount with the same team or do they go for broke? Hossa has shown he wants to win more than he wants money, Gaborik has, well, shown he is Gaborik. (My feelings on this topic are clear, I'll do my best to set them aside for a moment.)

What he means to the team:

It should be obvious to anyone who has watched more than one Wild game how important Gaborik is to this team. He is the all time franchise leader in every offensive category, and his brief run at the end of the year showed that this is a completely different team with him on the ice. He is the only true scorer this franchise has ever known. Without him, the team becomes the definition of uber boring, trap happy hockey.

What is gained by a re-signing, what is lost if he walks:

This is a no brainer. Should the Wild re-sign Gaborik, they keep a potential super star developed by franchise, with loyal, blood thirsty fans who want nothing more than to be able to keep a star in the state, ala Kirby Puckett. After watching countless stars leave the state due to conflicts with management or cheap skate owners, Minnesota sports fans would be beside themselves should Gaborik sign here. The pure PR of the move might be worth an offer.

That said, Gaborik has also alienated his share of fans, the author of this post included. He has never been the warmest of personalities, and after several quotes throughout the year, Gaborik is seen as a cancer more than a savior by a large contingent of fans. Re-signing him would likely dispel most of the rancor, though.

If Gaborik signs somewhere else, the Wild lose the final original member of the franchise, lose a sense of history, and lose the only guy on the roster capable of putting up a fifty goal season.

Should they (and will they) make an offer?

Simply put, yes they should. A new GM has a good chance to rebuild the relationship with Gaborik and his agent. The two men Gaborik had an issue with are gone now, and a new GM and coach could release Gaborik into untold offensive heights. A high flying, fast paced game, based around Gaborik's ability to score from anywhere could be enticing to the Slovakian sniper. The Wild would be stupid to not make an offer, so my bet is they do in fact, make a competitive offer.

How much should the offer be, and for how long?

The last reported deal the Wild had on the table is reported to be $8 million per season for ten years. Reports are also that Gaborik was looking for more in the $10 million a year for ten year range. With the state of the world economy, and the current contracts being signed by big name players, Gaborik and Salcer are drunk if they think they will see that money. When Henrik Zetterberg signs for roughly $6 million per year, it sets a fairly good bar for where Gaborik will be for money and term.

My guess is the Wild come in at around $7 million per season, and keep the term short, as the injury bug has not been proven to be gone. Final estimate is 7 to 8 million a year for three to four years.

What are the chances of this happening?

So many factors are now in play in this negotiation. Risebrough and Lemaire are gone. Who the new GM is, and who he names as the coach will be major factors in Gaborik's decision. Also weighing on Gaborik's mind is his good friend Mr. Hossa also becoming a free agent, and their good friend Mr. Demitra saying how much he loves Vancouver. With the Sedin twins looking to be gone, can Mike Gillis land a three pack of Slovaks?

I would say the chances of Gaborik signing here are improved, but still unlikely. If you had asked me two weeks ago, I would have said zero chance. With Riser and Lemaire gone, I would say the chances improved greatly, but not enough. Put it at 40% that he re-signs with the Wild, and about 50% that he signs where ever Hossa does.

Can the Wild afford Hossa, too? The answer there is no, at least not without a discount from both players.


Stephane Veilleux

Stephane Veilleux

#19 / Left Wing / Minnesota Wild



Nov 16, 1981

2008 - Stephane Veilleux 81 13 10 23 -17 40 0 1 1 0 146 8.9

SRV has been a mainstay in the Wild line up for a long time. He is a spark plug, energy type player who has bought in 100% to a defense first mentality. He is a solid role player, a favorite of many fans, and unfortunately, completely replaceable.

What he means to the team:

Veilleux has been the prototypical checking forward for the Wild. He is a feisty player who plays a game that is rough and physical. He is a master of positioning, and has shown some offensive ability at times.

His value, up until this season. was immense. A player that could take some of the defensive forward shifts from Mikko Koivu, allowing Koivu to hone his offensive game. While they do not play the same position, SRV's presence on the checking line adds enough defensive ability to move Koivu away from the role of sut down forward. He has shown that his is not afraid to drop the gloves, stick up for a teammate, or to face the top line of the opposition every night

That said, there are hundreds of Veilleuxs in the NHL, and even more plying their trade in the AHL and juniors. The arrival of Cal Clutterbuck has made SRV completely expendable.

What is gained by a re-signing, what is lost if he walks:

The sad part of this story is if they re-sign him, they are making a mistake. I like SRV, and he deserves to be in the NHL. He will find a home somewhere. However. his asking price will be too high, and C-Buck has stolen his spot. The team loses little in the on-ice category by letting him walk, and gain very little by keeping him.

Should they (and will they) make an offer?

Should they? Sure, they should, and they will. However, it will be less than the $862K he made this season, and SRV will not be happy with that. After all, everyone thinks they deserve a raise, right? He will likely be looking for around $1 million a season, and the Wild would be hard pressed to give that up for him when they have so many players that can fill his role so easily.

How much should the offer be, and for how long?

If SRV wants to stay in Minnesota, he will need to accept a contact around that of recently signed John Scott, or around the $500K mark. Should they offer that, and if he is interested in that amount, the Wild should offer no more than two years, as they have players in Houston that need to get their shot too.

What are the chances of this happening?

The chances of SRV being back next season are slim. A new GM is not going to want to spend a million a year on a guy who plays on the fourth line. So unless a new GM and coach see a different role for Veilleux, he will be wearing a different jersey next year.

Remember, also, that Veilleux was given a preview of his worth to other clubs last off season when he was waived by the Wild and no one claimed him.


Today's Lesson

The overriding lesson is simple, and will continue through the rest of the exploration in the coming days. Do not expect any of the free agents to return. A new GM is going to be looking to take the team in a different direction (or should be), and is likely going to want to be rid of the previous roster. With the exception of Gaborik, none of the current free agents are irreplaceable.

Today's lesson is that that the chances of Gaborik coming back are improved, but still slim. A new GM will make a strong push to keep the only scorer on the roster. Gaborik likely will explore other options, and unless the Wild come in with the highest number and a strong new direction, Gaborik is gone.

SRV is likely gone right behind Gaborik, as he is completely, 100% replaceable. Clutterbuck has shown he has every ability Veilleux does, and more. SRV will likely find a home somewhere in the NHL, but will not get anywhere near the price tag he wants.


Tune in tomorrow, and the next few days while we continue to explore the free agent class.

See you then.